Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Scorpio Races

Surf and hooves!  It's my new exclamation.  Maggie Stiefvaters' The Scorpio Races deserves an exclamation all its own.  Teeth and Manes!  Could be another one, actually.  I like them both.

Imagine an island in the Northern Sea (I think).  This island loves its horses, the land-based ones we all know, and the water horses from the sea.  The flesh-eating wild water horses driven to land every Fall where they hunt anything with blood in its veins.

The Scorpio races bring tourists and money - and death - to the people on this island of Skarmouth.  The races have a history longer than memory.  Sean Kendrick has won four out of the last six races on the water horse he calls Corr.  Corr is as red as his father's mount was the year his father died in the races.

Puck Connelly and her brothers lost both their parents to the sea and to the water horses.  Now, her older brother is abandoning the family to go to the mainland.   Puck decides to win the Scorpio Races, on her own horse, or on a water horse, if she can find one, in an attempt to keep her family together.

There is the set-up, gentle readers.  And oh my, excuse the pun, but this book is a wild, wild ride! 

And I want to learn to ride a horse!!  Yes!  I want to race the wind on a horse that I love, on a horse that loves me.

And I want to be brave and alive, the way Sean and Puck are brave and alive.  But, if I can't be, then I am so happy that Maggie Stiefvater has written this book so I can imagine that braveness and alive-ness running in my sluggish veins.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rain and randomity

Yesterday, I woke up and the heat was....gone!  Like a miracle.  Like it was all a sticky uncomfortable dream.  A breeze blew and the wind chimes clattered and I decided before the heat rose again, I was going to bake up some rhubarb muffins.  A fellow rhubarb enthusiast found a great recipe made with whole wheat flour, oatmeal and brown sugar.  No muffins stay as moist and luscious as rhubarb muffins.  And this is good because I have LOTS of rhubarb.

In the afternoon the skies opened up.  And our new "water feature" - a bucket set under the second floor air conditioner to catch the condensation - became a lake.  I don't want to dump that good rain water but I don't want to invite mosquitoes to stay either.  I will solve that dilemma in the morning if I have time to water.

I have two interests that I need to look into and they both involve water.  The first is an easier way to re-use grey water.  I scoop out my shower water and pour it on the flower beds when I have time.  But what about dishwasher and washing machine waste water?  How can those sources of relatively harmless water be tapped?

The other is to find and install a rain barrel system for watering the vegetable garden.  And can rain water be used for other things such as washing clothes?  Older homes had cisterns for catching that water and then city sewer and water became the norm.  I'm just wondering here.

I am having a dry spell with my reading.  I still have about 15 ARCs from Book Expo to finish but I can't decide what I want to read about - a disaffected teen who has been forced to relocate?  A boy whose palm bears a mysterious mark and who lives with his Uncle Phineas?

OH MY STARS AND BOLTS!!!  I just found a Maggie Stiefvater book in my BEA Bag of Swag.  Thank you, God!  I am reading The Scorpio Races this week.  It comes out in October.  Happy Desk Chair Dance!!!

If you like kids' books - and I do -, check out Delightful Children's Books, a website devoted to producing book lists on just about anything for children of almost any age.  This week's featured book list is devoted to birds.  Story program planners, take note!

So...rhubarb muffins in the kitchen.  A breeze blowing in the window.  A good book to look forward to. Lunch with a long time friend where we talked and talked.  Tomorrow is the last day of Stories in the Schools.  The Storytelling Workshop next week is full up.  Yeah, life is good.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Games, stories, movies and summer heat

Whoa!  I have a summer cold, the kind that comes on with extreme changes in temperature and fans blowing all over the place.  We don't have central air-conditioning and we keep our window ac off for most of the day.

On Friday, I spent the day closing off the family room doorways - no doors - with curtains to keep the cool air in.  The curtains are thin but the difference between one side of the curtains and the other is dramatic.

But you know all about the weather. Just look out your window.

I have one more week of Stories in the Schools and then the amazing Teen Tellers and I and several wonderful adult volunteers will put on a Storytelling Workshop.  That is always fun. Last week, Stories in the Schools were so much fun.  The theme was friendship and we talked about games.  I found a wonderful website of games for camp counselors - The Ultimate Camp Resource.  And on the site was a game called Beat the Bunny.  It was so simple, I worried that the older children might not like it but the kids cheered and hollered.

Here is how the game is played.  Sit in a circle and start passing around a small ball - I used a small balloon.  When the smaller ball is half way around the circle, start passing a larger ball or balloon in the same direction.  The small ball is the bunny and the larger ball is the farmer.  The farmer can change direction anytime the players want it to.  But the bunny must go in the same direction UNTIL the farmer changes direction.  That causes all the excitement.  It takes some players longer to notice that the bunny is heading right into the farmer's hands.  The game is over when the two balls end up in the same lap.  We played the game with three different groups of children between the ages of 3 and 7 and the reaction was the same with each group.  Laughter and cheers!  One teen helper lamented, "We never played fun games like that!"  Thanks, Ultimate Campers.

The schools are all air-conditioned which makes these programs even more enticing.

Movie theaters are also good places to beat the heat.  We went to see HP 7, part 2 TWICE this week.  I felt like watching it again, actually, and I am not a movie go-er.  As the professors prepared Hogwarts for battle, I found myself crying.  They all seemed to feel so hopeless.  And even though we all know how the movie will end - or do if we read the books - that feeling that the professors and the students are doomed really comes across.  Voldemort sounded so reasonable when he offered them safety in return for Harry.  Scary and wonderful.

Talking about movies - and I am talking about movies - the Hobbit movies are taking so long to make that Peter Jackson is posting videos about the process on his Facebook page. ( I hope this link works.)  I long to visit Middle Earth - my generation's Hogwarts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bouncing Around

Last night I was looking for my copy of Camilla Gryski's Cat's Cradle book.  I want to relearn the "Yam Thief" series of string figures.  I did not find the book - sigh - AGAIN.  But I found Finding Day's Bottom by Candace Ransom.  I got this book directly from Candace at the 2006 Book Expo and- astonishment of astonishments! I never read it!!!

So, last night, I read it.  It is a slight book - size wise - about an 11 year old girl adjusting to the changes that happen after her father is killed in an accident at the sawmill.  She misses her Daddy immensely.  And her grandfather moves down off the mountain into their home because, her mother tells her, "It's not good for old people to stay by themselves."

Jane-Ery, the heroine, learns a lot from her Grandpap.  She learns folklore about plants and planting and she learns how to weave pine needle baskets.  And she learns about people and their choices through the stories her grandfather tells.  And she gets all the way to Christmas, worrying about the unpaid bills under the sugar bowl, and how to earn her mother's approval, and where in heaven or earth is this "Day's Bottom" her grandfather is always talking about.

I gobbled this book up - the folk wisdom, the moods, the grief, the work and chores and endless worry. - I have been a fan of just-getting-by fiction forever, especially books that take place in rural areas.

It started with the stories in our grade school readers that detailed the lives of the pioneers - how they grew their food and wove their cloth.  And there was a book about Cody; he made himself a fiddle while his sister made a quilt and hid it from him the whole time.  Then, there are the Little House books.

But the books I enjoy the most are the stories of more modern day people -the books about how hard scrabble patches of earth got their owners through the Great Depression or the 1950s or the 1980s or last week.  Or stories like Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor or the books of Rebecca Caudill, Robbie Branscum, Ruth White.

One of the things that I most appreciate in this genre is the role that oral tradition, storytelling, plays in the books.  Rather than telling a child that he shouldn't be jealous, a father or grandmother or big sister tells a fairy tale about something happening to a jealous character.  Teach and entertain.  That's just part of what stories do.

Talking about stories, the National Storytelling Network has entered the blogosphere with a new presence on the web - up there in my list of blogs in the upper right hand corner.  The first post is an essay on how hard it is for our digital youngsters to "talk" and the essayist isn't writing about storytelling.  She's writing about oral communication, just the art of looking a person in the eye and telling them something. Think about all those young ones staring at their phones, thumbs at the ready.  And sometimes the people they are texting are within sight.  Put the digital communicators away, please.  Let's tell some riddles.

Bouncing right along here - I did tell some riddles this morning at the Stories in the Schools program I did with amazing teen volunteers, Alisha, Raj, Anushka and Natalie.  We read books, made string figures, played games, blew bubbles, had a fun time.  We even had a string figure expert in our audience. This is all part of the Parkland Community Library's Summer Reading Club.

Tomorrow, the same activities but a different cast of volunteers will join me at Parkway Manor School at 1:30 pm and Thursday, we head over the Schnecksville School at 10 am.  If you are in the area, you should drop by.  I'll do some string figures for you.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Invisible Inkling

Well, it is another beautiful day in the neighborhood - the kind of day you just want to grab onto.  Blue sky!  Bright hot sun and a wonderful breeze that is kicking my wind chime around like a hacky sack.  And Hub and I are doing the "Let's do something."  "What do you want to do?"  "I don't know. What do YOU want to do?" thing.  The day's too nice to worry so we drift off and do other things. 

Yesterday, I finished Invisible Inkling by Emily Jenkins, world-famous (or should be) author of many good books.  Inkling is an invisible bandapat who shows up just in time for the beginning of fourth grade.  Hank is not too happy about fourth grade since his best friend, Wainscotting, has moved away so Inkling is a nice distraction.  First, because he's invisible and Hank only found him because the neighbor's dog went bonkers and tried to attack the poor little bandapat.  And second, because Inkling tells the most outrageous and entertaining lies.  Hank's biggest problem in school is a bully who is furious at Hank for kicking the ball into the wrong goal in soccer.  And Inkling's biggest problem is that there is not enough squash in Hank's household.  Bandapats love squash.  So Inkling and Hank have their hands/paws full in this short book for kids in grades 3 and up.  And Harry Bliss draws some excellent pictures - including one of Inkling.   I am hoping that Inkling and Hank return in another adventure.  Do bandapats shed, I wonder?  And if they do, does it matter if no one can see the fur?  Hmmm.

Oh, we saw HP7 part 2 last night.  I want to see it again.  It moved so quickly that I think I missed something important.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chanda's Secrets - Need a Good Cry?

A good cry is like a summer thunderstorm, clearing out the stickiness of emotions and replacing them with a cool breeze.  Tears that fall because everyday life can scar us with questions and confusion and uncertainties - these tears cleanse and let us recalibrate, reorient, and get back on track.

On a night when no one has emailed me and no one is home to chat, on an evening when my husband must go to bed early to prepare for his early morning job, when suddenly the home I rejoiced in several hours before seems echoing and empty, at times like these doubts and fears come creeping, creeping.

Times like these call for a good cry.  And if YOU need a good cry, read Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton.  Young teen Chanda has the horrible task of hiring an undertaker for her baby sister's funeral.  Her sister's father is off drunk somewhere and her mother must stay home with the younger children, Iris who is five and Solly who is four.  In a South African community where people die of "TB" or "cancer" and where the disease AIDS is not even discussed - where making plans for death is just bringing on bad luck, Chanda and her mother are barely keeping things together.  When Papa and the older boys died in a mine explosion, the family spiraled downward.  They were lucky that a married man hired them, but unlucky when he turned his wandering eyes on Chanda - lucky, when a neighbor couple took them in, luckier still when an old, kindly widower married Mama and left her the house.  Now Sara has died and Mama can't get out of bed and Jonah, the stepfather has left and whispers, whispers, whispers make the whole family outcasts.

Secrets, superstition, unkindness that comes from fear, and a disease that cannot be stopped because no one will admit that it exists add up to the perfect catalyst for a good cry.  The ending is victorious.  Chanda faces her mother's illness and refuses to hide it.  Her busybody neighbor steps up to be a support and a comfort.  And there is hope, hope for change and hope for Chanda.

And you won't just get a good cleansing cry out of this book.  You will get perspective because Chanda's Secrets (watch the book trailer) may be fiction but it is based very firmly in the facts of HIV/AIDS and how ignorance, superstition and fear keep people from dealing with the disease.  And an empty inbox just can't compete with that for sadness.

The book has become a movie, Life, Above All,  and was highly acclaimed at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

Friday, July 15, 2011


My Books I Want to Read list has reached critical mass.  There are not enough hours in the day.  Help!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gross National Happiness

So, tonight, I finished Lisa Napoli's Radio Shangri-La, a memoir about Napoli's experiences in Bhutan.  I was feeling a little passed over, really.  I have never met a devastatingly attractive man who offered me a chance to volunteer in a remote, intriguing location.  And even if I did, there is my husband to consider.

Then I logged onto my email account and there was an article for the Bhutan Canada Foundation, offering teaching opportunities to Americans, Canadians and others in the Happiest Place on Earth, the tiny mountain nation of Bhutan.

Now I have an invitation to do just that - volunteer somewhere very far, far away and somewhere enticingly different.    Coincidence???  I think not.

It is tempting even without the devastatingly attractive man.  Am I woman enough to step up to the challenge?  Or should I take this as a sign that there is more adventure waiting out there, if not in Bhutan, perhaps somewhere closer?  I am keeping my eyes open.

But for those who prefer armchair travel, read Napoli's introduction to the enchanting and fluctuating country of Bhutan.  Since the turn of this new century, Bhutan has gradually relaxed some of its guard on its tiny country - allowing the entrance of television, radio and the Internet.  Then in a move planned for several years, the king opened elections and rules, now, with the aid of a Prime Minister and other elected officials.  As fascinated as Westerners are with the soaring beauty of the Himalayas and the spare lifestyle of the Bhutanese, they find fast food, cars, cell phones and the America that they see in movies and TV to be spellbinding.  What Napoli was discovering, even before she set foot in Bhutan, was that happiness is being where you are.  Read the book. 


Today's horoscope told me that I could just get the job done OR I could put in the extra effort to make a resounding and lasting success.

Forgive me.  Some days, I just want to get the job done.

I have noticed that if I get up and move - do some stretches, take a walk - my mood and productivity lifts.  I didn't do that this morning.  And since my oatmeal is waiting as I type, I will put it off until after my second cup of coffee.

Today, I take Stories in the Schools for the Parkland Community Library to the new Fred J. Jaindl Elementary School, named after the late patriarch of the Jaindl Turkey empire.  We are doing stories about Animals around the World, including Bill Martin's Brown, Bear, Brown Bear  (watch and listen to a YouTube of the author reading this book) and Laurie Kreb's We're Sailing to Galapagos.  I have become a big Laurie Krebs fan.  Her picture books are fun to read and always teach something as well - great books for this year's Summer Reading Club theme, One World, Many Stories.

I have a cadre of volunteers to read to, play games with and make crafts with the children at Jaindl School.  The fun begins at 1:30 pm.  So come out of the heat and sail off to the Galapagos with us.  I plan to make this program a resounding success.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom

I parted with a big bag of fresh picked green beans and a copy of The Soldier's Wife by Margaret LeRoy today as I gave them to my Mom for her 85th birthday.  My Mom is a Mom among Moms.  I think she might stand 5 feet tall if she throws her shoulders back.  I'm about 5'5".  One of my brothers is 6'5".  Every one of my Mom's kids is taller than she is and we all were by the time we were 14.  Tiny as she is, my Mom is a wonder. She is, hands down, the sweetest, happiest person I know, even after bringing nine children into the world, making a home for two Cuban teens, and a couple of foster babies.

The bunch of us got together and gave Mom a Kindle for her birthday.  It was Mariane's idea, but she was urged to action by Heidi and our sister-in-law, Gail.  Mom is thrilled with this new gadget.  She is an old hand at Skypeing, since the youngest of the clan lives in Japan with his wife and two sons.  So, even though she bothers her sons, daughters and grandchildren for help in getting things done, there is no moss growing on my Mom technology wise.  Her cell phone is even nicer than mine!

I didn't forget my Dad today.  I took him my ARC of Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff. I want to read the book myself but I got caught up in Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli which is a slimmer book and has gotten a lot of attention in the enewsletters I read.  I am quite taken by memoirs of people who are younger than I.  Hmmm, just wait til they get to be MY age - or better yet, my mother's age.  They'll have stories to tell then.

At Story FUSION, this past Spring, there was an opportunity for people to record their life stories on DVD.  I think we called it Life Stories.  I was too busy being a volunteer. to take advantage of it.  Next year, I think I'm going to drag my Mom and Dad into the booth and get some of their tales down.  My Dad's a willing raconteur. Telemarketers should know better than to call him, because he will ask them how they feel about religion or politics and before you know it 20 minutes have passed.  He got a call from the Republican party - of which he is a member - while I was there one day and after waiting ten minutes for him to get off the phone I just waved good-bye and left.  He was still giving that man a piece of his mind.  It's a wonder he has any pieces left the way he hands them out left and right.

My Mom on the other hand has trouble getting a word in edgewise.  But as they grow older she has been speaking up.  "Oh we've heard that story a dozen times," she tells my Dad, not that any of us expect that it will make any difference.  And she says it with a smile and he rarely takes offense.

I once went to a talk on How to Be Happy.  There were seven rules and the first one was:  Have Happy Parents.  I got that rule down pat.  Happy Birthday, Mom.  Here's hoping you get to have a bunch more.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Back to work

I am back to work for a few weeks.  I am the lowest person on the Youth Services totem pole, after 22 years of being the Book Queen for Kids and Teens.   Preparing to take programs into the schools this summer has been harrowing, as if after 3 months off, I had forgotten everything I ever learned.  For the past five years, my then assistant planned almost all of our storytimes so maybe my trepidation is understandable.  Or maybe, I just like to fuss.

It's fun to be back.  I have an excuse to visit with my old co-workers/friends and talk to parents and kids I've known for years.  And I catch up with the volunteers who fight chaos and maintain order. 

Here are highlights of this first week.

While I was sorting through all the stuff I need to take to the schools, a girl of about 8 years old got the chance to choose her reading prize from the prize locker.  "Whoa", I heard her say under her breath as she gazed on the small toys, candy and gadgets,  "I could get used to this!"

Two days later, I sat in the Picture Book section, talking to Jean, a volunteer who spends her time making sure the picture books are in order.  First I was attacked by another girl, about the same age, who needed one of those "Mr. Klutz Is Nuts" or "Miss Daisy Is Crazy" books.  I still remembered who that author is!  (Dan Gutman! a fun and prolific author for young chapter book readers and beyond.)  After helping her, I returned to my chair and James, a most amazing reader, came up to me.

"Um, my boomerang is caught in a tree," he announced.  After a few questions, I decided to go see this boomerang.  He was concerned because it was right above a bird's nest.  He was worried about disturbing the birds.

Yep, there it was, too high for me to reach.  "I'll get a broom handle and knock it down," I told him.  So we marched back into the library and I asked permission to borrow a broom.  I chose a long handled duster thingy.  Then off we went again to the lawn to knock the thin white boomerang out of the crab apple tree.

James' older sister, Eugenia, this year's co-valedictorian, found us out there and witnessed the falling of the boomerang.  She plans on going to Cornell to study cognitive science.  Smart girl!

But the best thing of all is watching my excellent replacement, Miss Hannah, answer multiple calls and field questions and jump up from her desk and come back and order teen volunteers about and....I don't have to do all that anymore.  Sigh of relief.  I just mark down the attendance for the morning's programs, make sure I have what I need for the next program, chat with a friend, wave gaily and step into the sunshine.  I LIKE not being in charge.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Motherless Girls

In the last 48 hours (or so) I have finished A Red Herring without Mustard by Alan Bradley,  The Penderwicks on Gardam Street and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette both by Jeanne Birdsall.  All three books feature motherless girls.

People who write about children are often told to "get rid of the parents".  This is why books about orphans are so popular.   I guess writers believe that single mothers are more meddlesome than grief stricken fathers will be.  It's very unfair to the mothers, really.  First, they have to be the dead parent, and second, they aren't allowed to have moments of inattention due to grief and juggling work and home.

Fathers are "allowed" to assume that their children will be all right if they are left alone at the vacation cottage for an hour or two.  A mother would be under fire for this lapse in judgment.  It is a burdensome stereotype and fathers should object strenuously!  If mothers must deal with all that emotional pain and still take care of their families, dads can too!!!  They are every bit as capable of dealing with adversity as the female sex.

Enough for my soapbox moment.  The books in question deal with two very different families.  Red Herring is a murder mystery written, I think, for adults although any savvy reader in grades five and up will enjoy Flavia de Luce, the 11-year-old protagonist, a child with a knack for bending the truth and a morbid interest in poison.  Red Herring is the third book in this series and the first one that hints that Flavia and her older sisters ever had anything but acrimonious relations.  It is the book that made me wonder just why Ophelia and Daphne hate Flavia so much.  The other two books made the hate seem like a funny plot device. 

My sisters are my best friends, almost like the Penderwick sisters.  Still I can remember whole stretches of time - weeks, maybe even months - when one pair of us, or another or all four of us disliked each other greatly.   Clothes stealing and snide remarks and contemptuous looks and slammed doors!!!  Is that what the three de Luce sisters are going through?  I am really far more interested in what's going on in that stiff-upper-lip British family than I am in the mysteries that pop up in their little village.

Meanwhile, the Penderwicks are siblings extraordinaire.  They dote on each other and work together to keep their family running.  The three older sisters are devoted to the youngest who depends on all of them for her happiness.  If Birdsall wasn't such a good writer, it would almost be too treacly (as the British might say) to stand.  But she is a good writer and these four girls are just the antidote to world-weariness.  If your child is reading about the Penderwicks, than you can sleep soundly.  The worst person in these books is the overambitious snobby mother of their best friend.  There is the neighbor's colleague who tries to steal a laptop, too.  He's such a minor character - a blip in their wholesome adventures.

I want more of both families, more plotting nasty deLuces, more loving responsible Penderwicks, more more more!  And while I wait for more, I think I'll call my mother since I'm still lucky enough to have one.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Change? WHY??

OK, what is with all these changes that Google/Gmail/Blogger have suddenly decided to make?  This reminds me of New Coke.  Listen up, people.  Change just to change is not good.  I see no purpose or advantage to any of these recent changes.

Individuals can get a new haircut.  Big deal!  Hair grows back. And it's just one person making one change to that one person's personal space.  But online services who change the way their subscribers access information, or the way they collect information ON their subscribers or the way their users can search their sites or post on those sites - all without notice - make those changes for hundreds of thousands of people and I don't like the way that feels.  I feel like a pawn.

Perhaps, it is time for me to research moving off the grid for real.  What say YOU??

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Language of Flowers

I am astonished and a little appalled that I never reviewed The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh on this blog.  I picked it up, along with a white silk rose pin, at Book Expo.  According to the included glossary, a white rose means "a heart unacquainted with love".  I wonder if the publishers knew that or if it was just the most available flower pin.

On Victoria's 18th birthday, she wakes up to the smell of smoke.  Her fellow foster teens have lit her mattress on fire.  It is their farewell gesture.  Now that she is 18 she has three months to find her own apartment and a job before the foster care system cuts her loose.  This is how the book starts.

Victoria chooses non-compliance and homelessness.  She finds a neglected piece of land in a public park and she starts a garden.  And she finds a job, just in the nick of starvation, arranging flowers.

I love survival stories.  I can remember planning how I would live on a shopgirl's hourly wage way back in high school, when we rode to school on steam-powered busses.  How I would get food and clothing, where I would live - these were my daydreams.  My teen life was largely free of strife but I come from a large noisy family.  The idea of living alone, even at a subsistence level, was so attractive, especially when I felt put-upon and misunderstood.  So reading about Victoria's struggles to live off the grid was fascinating.

The book alternates between Victoria's struggles after her 18th birthday, and her years as a life-long foster child.  Victoria did something "unforgivable" back then and it haunts her.  And all through it, there are flowers.  Flowers are how she communicates with the vaguely familiar and very handsome flower vendor.  Flowers are how she manages to put her life back in order.

I read this book two months ago and I still think about it.  I put petunias in my front yard instead of impatiens, because of this book.  The former means "your presence soothes me"; the latter means - surprise - "impatience".  Which would YOU want on your lawn?

Diffenbaugh's novel is for the young adult or fully adult set, even though her protagonist barely fits the adult criteria.  Her descriptions of foster life are so jarring that I found them sensational.  I had trouble believing that one child could have had so many bad foster parents. (Note:  I read the ARC.  The published book may be different from my edition.)  Still, Diffenbaugh is a foster parent herself.  I am sure she did her homework.

The book's good points far outweigh my personal quibble.    Read about pain and redemption, hope and forgiveness and learn something in the process.  A good read!
Peonies!  Unfortunately, peonies can mean anger.  Sigh.
I have been interested in the "language" of flowers since reading Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes novel,  The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets.  These novels, written for the teen set but enjoyable for ALL readers, follow the adventures of Sherlock Holmes' much younger sister, Enola.  In The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets, the language of flowers leads Enola to a kidnap victim.

And last year at BEA, I picked up a copy of Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White.  In this novel for teens, a 14-year-old finds that her understanding of flowers comes with a magical power.  She uses that power before she can control it.

So find out what flowers can say to you - or what someone is trying to tell you through the flowers they give you.  Hope the message is fun!  Petunias, pineapples and poinsettias to you all.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Chess sets and old books

So...anyway, Bill decided to buy a chess set over the internet.  And it came.  Since most of the packages that come to this house are books and those are addressed to me, we were both excited at this substantial box.  Alas, it was NOT the set he ordered, which he tells me, was a standard chess set.  No, they sent him one of the ornamental sets with the kings on thrones and actual knights sitting astride horses - good for looking at, not so good to play with.  No worries, a phone call later the problem was resolved.  But this glitch sent Bill into the attic to look for chess related stuff.
Come into the attic, dearie!

Or wait, maybe it was the storage unit auction that sent him into the attic.  Maybe it was both.

It does not matter.  All you need to know is that yesterday, Bill spent most of the day dragging things out of our attic.  He found years and years and years of Chess Life magazines.   (Our son played competitive chess through  high school and beyond.)

He found his grandmother's personal cookbook which his mother gave to me before we were married.  I have not seen the book since we moved here 25 years ago.

He found several Cricket magazines.  Have I told you how much I adore Cricket magazine?  I do - adore it, I mean.

He found, and here I whoop with joy, my Robert Service books.  I thought I had more but, at least I have Ballads of a Red Cross Man and Ballads of a Bohemian.
Here they sit on my desk chair.

But wait there's more.  He found a set of china; -  (I knew it was there.  I just forgot) - a rack for audio cassettes and a new use for it; a lot of old Time and Smithsonian magazines, now all carted to the recycling bin.  Good-bye, old friends.

There's a desk in the attic, too, and Bill is determined to bring it down.  He found some trading cards and a photo of me when I was seven.  No, I will NOT show it to you!

Also found - finding things is a theme this week!  A marble chess set from Mexico. missing two pieces.  And a copy of Nomadic Furniture 2.

Return with me to the early '70s, folks, when making furniture from cardboard boxes and packing pallets was, as far as I was concerned, the HEIGHT of suavity.  The idea of providing comfort and utility without taking up a lot of space and weight still appeals to me.  I am a sucker for any kind of convertible furniture - sofas that turn into beds; chairs that are really step stools; tables that unfold and collapse.  I am drawn to these things like the proverbial moth to the flame; like hummingbirds to honeysuckle.  I am helpless with awe and desire when confronted with clever and useful multi-purpose domestic design.

Such a good read!
It's been fun, trekking back through some of the stuff in our lives.  Now, I have to concentrate on now and next week when I rejoin the "working" world and present the first Stories in the Schools sessions for the Parkland Community Library.